A Flight Surgeon's Odyssey
by Guy S. Clark, M.D.
In early 1966, a 28-year-old Air Force physician with a pilot's licence received orders to go to Vietnam. It was exactly what doctor Guy S. Clark, M.D., had hoped for: a choice assignment as flight surgeon to the elite pilots based at Cam Ranh Bay Air Force Base on the South China Sea.
Those orders began a year-long assignment that would find Clark flying more than 90 bombing missions over Vietnam and Laos in the Phantom F4-C, plunging deep into the Viet Cong-infested jungle with a gaggle of Marines from the Republic of Korea in search of the remains of two lost Phantom pilots, and tending to the medical needs of the hard-charging pilots he flew with.
Guy Clark’s experiences as both crew member and doctor to the pilots who flew bombing missions every day were very different from the ground troops and helicopter pilots, many of whom have written eloquently about their own war experiences. Clark was a physician who dreamed of high adventure, and for him flying with the Phantom F4-C pilots was the ultimate high.
Sharkbait, A Flight Surgeon’s Odyssey in Vietnam tells these stories and more, including Clark’s survival of “Jungle Survival School” in the Philippines, and temporary assignments at Vung Tau (the “Riviera” for servicemen in Vietnam), Binh Thuy, and other Air Force outposts in Southeast Asia.
Along the way, Clark introduces readers to arrogant and clueless military brass, jungle bases where offices were huts that doubled as shelters for sows and piglets, and courageous pilots who day after day flew into the danger and uncertainty of a war that was becoming increasingly unpopular at home.
On Cam Ranh Bay:
"Despite the size of its domain, the 12th Air Force Hospital at Cam Ranh receives relatively few casualties, except malaria, diarrhea and gonorrhea. Of course, there is the occasional incident in which a trigger-happy air policeman mistakenly shoots a G.I. who has wandered out of his barracks during the night."
On the 'Big Picture' in VietnaM:
"[He] pressed me more aggressively for a response. I thought, hell, if he wants a response, I'll damn sure give it to him...'As far as the 'Big Picture' is concerned, I am convinced that no one in Vietnam, regardless of rank, has any concept of the direction that this war is heading—not to mention this base and this hospital. I don't believe that anyone except McNamara and LBJ has any inkling of forthcoming events—and I have grave doubts about them."